Arsenal recorded an impressive victory at The Hawthorns yesterday afternoon, all the more impressive considering they played the last 20 minutes or so with 10 men following Per Mertesacker’s red card.
Arsene Wenger kept his faith in the eleven that started last weekend at home to Reading, the only real surprise was to see Vito Mannone picked as the substitute goalkeeper instead of out of favour Wojciech Szczesny.
The hosts came closest early on when Tomas Rosicky had to clear Claudio Yacob’s header off the line in the 12th minute. Lukasz Fabianski then had a nervy moment when he failed to claim a ball in the air, but Yacob then saw his shot go harmlessly over the bar.
Arsenal took the lead in the 20th minute when Mikel Arteta’s long ball found Gervinho, who left Gareth McAuley for dead before crossing for Tomas Rosicky to head home. On Match of the Day they said Gervinho was shooting, either way, I don’t mind… Arsenal were 1-0 up, that’s all that mattered to me.
That was Rosicky’s first league goal for Arsenal since the famous 5-2 win in the North London Derby in February 2012. He wouldn’t have to wait much longer for his next one to arrive.
Before the break, Arsenal had chances to increase their advantage when Gervinho was denied by Ben Foster’s legs and Aaron Ramsey somehow shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
West Brom appealed for a penalty when Laurent Koscielny brought down Yacob, but referee Howard Webb didn’t point to the spot.
Arsenal scored a crucial second goal five minutes into the second half. Rosicky drove forward and his powerful effort was batted away by Foster, but he couldn’t prevent the Czech international from scoring at the second time of asking. Arsenal had some much needed breathing room.
Webb again waved away penalty appeals from the hosts when Per Mertesacker fell on the ball in the area. Romelu Lukaku fired a free-kick straight at Fabianski and Chris Brunt would also be denied by the Pole as West Brom increased the pressure.
The nervous finale was set up when Mertesacker’s clumsy foul on Shane Long not only lead to a West Brom penalty, but a red card for the German too.
James Morrison stepped up to the spot and his drilled his penalty through the legs of Fabianski and into the net. West Brom had a real chance of salvaging something now with the man advantage and 20 minutes still to play.
Arsenal’s subs after Mertesacker’s dismissal were unsurprisingly defensive. Thomas Vermaelen came on straight after the sending off for Gervinho, Kieran Gibbs replaced Rosicky with just under 10 minutes left and Coquelin replaced Cazorla in the dying minutes.
West Brom threw everything at Arsenal, with plenty of crosses coming in for the Gunners to defend after the penalty went in. McAuley headed wide at the far post but their best chances came even later.
Lukaku somehow fired wide when it looked as though he was bound to score. It really was a glorious chance and I have no idea how he missed it. Long then saw his shot go narrowly over the bar as eventually time ran out for West Brom.
For Arsenal now, today they can sit back and relax. They have done all they can do this weekend, which is win their game. Chelsea will most likely beat Sunderland and climb back above the Gunners into 4th. We can always sit in hope though. The interesting game today is Tottenham against Everton. Both of those sides are very much in contention for Champions League football next year, so at least one of them will drop points today. If they draw then both will drop points. Whatever happens in those two games, this sure is shaping up to be a fantastic finish to the season.
With the title race all but officially over, the battles for Champions League places and of course the relegation scrap will be the main talking points as this Premier League season comes to a close.
Next Game: Norwich (h) – 13th April